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Digital Open-book exam – an option for a Covid spring?

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Covid-19 has forced us to find alternatives to our traditional exam methods, alternatives that work digitally and on remote. The most common ways to deal with this have been to try to squeeze the traditional methods into a digital format, reduce the time available and add remote “surveillance” of the students.

These alternatives have worked fairly well (check here on how to make digital exams work as good as possible) but have resulted in stress among students and higher than usual reporting of cheating.

Since remote surveillance is problematic (no guarantee it works 100%) and limiting students’ access to information to zero during the exam is next to impossible, rethinking exam methods may be a way forward.

The open book alternative

In this situation digital open-book exams may be a good option. Open-book exams allow the students access to information from their literature, notes and could also include internet access. As a result, concern for students’ cheating may be limited to cooperation among students and the surveillance of students then becomes less of an issue. Using Urkund to check the students’ answers can then help to spot “copy paste” text and if students have copied each other’s answers.

As in all cases of open-book exams your questions need to be focused on reasoning rather than definitions and right or wrong answers. Students should not be able to google the right answer. Another issue to keep in mind is that to take advantage of the automatic screening of the text in Urkund the students must answer by uploading a document - Word documents or PDFs. If you want the students to provide their own hand-drawn figures or flow charts they can scan or photograph them and upload as separate documents or insert in a document together with text.

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Tips for Creating Open Book Exams:

Designing open-book exams: